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Questions raised about alternate level of care sites at Saskatchewan community hospitals

A file photo of an emergency room entrance in Saskatoon.
A file photo of an emergency room entrance in Saskatoon. File / Global News

A farmer is questioning the Saskatchewan government’s decision to temporarily close his town’s emergency room (ER) and why more notice wasn’t given.

Kris Williams, who lives in Davidson, Sask., said he learned Wednesday, via text from a health-worker in the community, that the ER would be closed as of Thursday as part of the COVID-19 surge plan put forward by the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA).

READ MORE: A timeline of the novel coronavirus in Saskatchewan

The health authority said the Davidson hospital is one of 12 community hospitals it identified for temporary conversion to alternate level of care (ALC) sites as part of the plan.

ALC refers to a patient that could be cared for in an alternate setting, rather than an acute-care setting, according to an SHA statement. It added this would refer to palliative, convalescing, respite, rehab or long-term care patients.

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“We did not go out and randomly select these facilities,” SHA CEO Scott Livingstone said during a press conference on Thursday.

“They were geographically selected, so that we can sure both our EMS personnel and these communities were all close to other ER facilities that were open closer to home and that is why this is happening.”

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SHA said the reason for the temporary measure is to ensure it has the capacity to address a potential surge in COVID-19 cases.

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Williams said he’s concerned about the ER being closed because people needing care will have to travel upwards of an hour to either Regina or Saskatoon.

He also said he’s confused about how he found out.

The identified hospitals will only accept admissions to ALC, according to SHA, and emergency services in these locations will also be temporarily disrupted and will not be available at these facilities.

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“This measure is necessary to help us protect our most vulnerable populations,” read the SHA’s statement.

“It will reduce traffic within these community hospitals, and will support the cohorting of staff, which reduces the risk of exposure.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus outbreak at Prince Albert’s Victoria Hospital declared over

In an emergency, SHA said people who live in the identified communities are asked to call 911. EMS will transport to the most appropriate facility to provide further care for the patient’s illness/injury, according to the statement. Alternatively, patients could go to their nearest available emergency department.

Davidson is approximately 110 kilometres south of Saskatoon.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

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For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

-With files from the Canadian Press